SHERLOCK HOLMES
AND THE SPIDER WOMAN

(1944)
With Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Gale Sondergaard, Vernon Downing, Dennis Hoey, Alec Craig
Directed by Roy William Neill
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

"I've read this 10 times, Watson, and there's no clue Dumbldore is gay!"    Not much of a mystery - with Gale Sondergaard in the cast, it's clear who the Spider Woman is going to be - but SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SPIDERWOMAN is still a superior chapter in the Universal Sherlock Holmes series.  Rathbone and Sondergaard are delightful and hammy in their scenes together, as Holmes and the deadly Spider Woman trade snappy and snippy dialogue, each one believing they are always one step ahead of the other.  Nigel Bruce is quite good too, playing a Dr. Watson who is finally shown to be more than just a marginally competent curiosity.  The few comedy scenes he has spring not from the usual misguided assumption that Bruce should be the comedy relief but rather from the story itself.

     The clever screenplay by Bertram Milhauser references many classic Doyle tales, including The Final Problem, The Empty House and The Speckled Band.  It also features sharper dialogue than usual, and a whole host of memorable characters, situations and settings, and a suspenseful finale in which Dr. Watson unwittingly becomes Holmes' near-assassin.

     Look quick for the letter "V", fashioned from bullet holes, in one wall at Holmes's flat in Baker Street - Doyle fans will know what that means.  And, of course, beware of that rare breed of spider known as the mendax flagrante!  4 - JB

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